Joanne T. Waters has set out to break the rules of prime-time television in "To Have and To Hold," the new romantic comedy she created for CBS.

In the pilot episode, which airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Ch. 2, Waters takes her two main characters - public defender Annie Cornell (Moira Kelly) and police detective Sean McGrail (Jason Beghe) - and marries them off. Can romance survive marriage?If the first episode is any indication, the answer is yes.

"It's about a couple that just got married, which I think is very interesting because it's not the `are they going to get married or are they not going to get married' type of thing," Waters said.

And there are innumerable examples of TV shows that have tried to keep that going, only to lose all their steam when the couple finally gets romantic - from "Moonlighting" to "Cheers" to "Lois & Clark," just to name a few.

"It seems like, on television, if you're married, sex stops (and) romance stops," said executive producer Scott Shepherd. "What we're trying to say is that, basically, marriage is a very romantic thing."

And "To Have and To Hold" is a very romantic show. Not to mention both funny and dramatic.

"I think that life is humorous and tragic at the same time," Waters said. "And coming from an Irish Catholic family . . . we have a much better time at our funerals than at our weddings."

"To Have and To Hold" features a large Irish Catholic family of its own. Sean has a flamboyant mother Irish mother (Fionnula Flanagan) and a taciturn father (John Cullum of "Northern Exposure"). Two of his brothers are also cops and the third is a firefighter - who happens to be married to Annie's sister. And Annie's mother (Mariette Hartley) also pops up frequently.

As Waters had hoped, the pilot is very, very funny in spots, touching in others and quite romantic. It's not entirely believable - as when Annie and Sean are on opposite sides of a court case - but it is entirely charming.

If Waters, Shepherd and the rest of their team can keep that up, "To Have and To Hold" will be something worth making a date to see every week.